It’s the stuff of dreams and is being hailed as the second-most important discovery since the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb—an ancient lost city has been found near the famous Valley of the Kings. Excavations began six months ago in September about 300 miles south of Cairo, and before long “to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions.”
Identified as “Dazzling Aten,” it’s the largest-ever lost city to be uncovered in Egypt, and dated to the reign of one of the most powerful pharaohs to rule during the kingdom’s golden age, Amenhotep III. Ruling from 1391 to 1353 BCE alongside his son, the equally famous Akhenaten, Hawass described their city as being in “a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”
Featuring zigzagging walls, a rarity in ancient Egypt, the haunts of specialty craftsmen, such as brickmakers, glazers, and jewelers, have been discovered, along with evidence of their work, such as the seal of Amenhotep III that would have been used to stamp into mud bricks that likely built several nearby monuments such as the Temple of Ramses II.
Other districts for large-scale baking and storing of foods were also discovered, and the archaeologists determined that they would have been capable of hosting many workers at one time—likely for festivals and funerary ceremonies. “Work is underway and the mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures,” says Hawass, dangling the most fantastical and metaphorical carrots in the face of global archaeology.
While the city was presided over by Amenhotep III, his son Akhenaten moved the capital to Amarna following his death, yet historians are unclear why. An inscription on the outside of a pot containing meat for a ceremony dated the activity in Aten to just a year before the it was supposedly abandoned. Hawass and the other researchers hope more excavations will reveal why this happened, and then whether the city was repopulated when Tutankhamen decided to move the capital to Thebes.
It’s a discovery and a story that should yield fascinating developments for years to come, and something that could lend a positive jolt to the Egyptian tourist industry after years of political instability.